Admittedly, any statistic in this business can be unique if you make it specific enough, but David Fincher’s maiden Emmy nomination this morning — Best Directing of a Drama Series for the pilot episode of Netflix’s “House of Cards” — brought him to a unique awards milestone. He’s now the first person to have been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards… and the MTV Video Music Awards.
The VMA part of the equation entered my mind yesterday, when Fincher racked up his eighth nomination — and his first in 22 years — for Best Direction of a Music Video, for his sleek black-and-white work on Justin Timberlake’s suave “Suit and Tie” clip. Fincher, of course, first came to prominence as a young director of instantly iconic music videos for the likes of Madonna, Paula Abdul, Aerosmith and George Michael, racking up his first seven nominations between 1989 and 1991 — one year before he made his feature directorial debut with “Alien 3.”
The most nominated director in the VMAs’ 30-year history, he also won the category two years in a row for the Madonna videos “Express Yourself” and “Vogue” (the latter a minimal, retro-inspired monochrome clip to which “Suit and Tie” seems a throwback of sorts). Two decades, nine movies and two Oscar nominations later, it’d be fun to see Fincher — now among the leading lights of the modern American cinema — return to his pop roots with a third VMA win. (Although, if we’re speaking strictly on merit, he deserves the nod less than Italian hyper-stylist Floria Sigismondi, strangely unnominated for Timberlake’s exquisite eight-minute “Mirrors” video, which copped a Video of the Year mention.)
Seeing Fincher nominated for a VMA and an Emmy on consecutive days is a nifty one-two from a trivia hound’s perspective, but it’s also an apt summation of his career to date. If the VMA nod for “Suit and Tie” speaks very much to his past, the Emmy nod for “House of Cards” points the way to the future, with Fincher joining the growing ranks of A-list filmmakers who have accepted television as an equal medium. That Steven Soderbergh, Jane Campion and David Mamet also became Emmy-nominated directors today only highlights the shift in status. (Meanwhile, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer and Tarsem are among the other VMA-endorsed music video masters who have gone on to successful film careers.)
Of course, Fincher’s film career should continue to thrive: he’s currently in pre-production on the big-screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s mega-bestseller “Gone Girl,” which is surely a hit waiting to happen. And it seems a reasonable bet that his two Oscar nominations to date — for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008) and “The Social Network” (2010) — won’t be his only ones. But this week’s unusual pair of nominations is a reminder that great filmmakers needn’t limit their artistry to a single medium.